Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–25—NKJV)

Missionaries have the wonderful privilege of being sent by local churches to go forth into places where the Gospel has not gone, and to duplicate the sending churches as God transforms souls and plants a new church through their efforts. As these missionaries go to “Jerusalem, all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) they are accountable to the local churches that provide their support. The support takes two main forms: financial support and prayer support. If the missionary keeps his priorities straight, both forms of support provide the “two rails of the train track.” When only one rail is utilized, the train will derail.

Paul was in the business of duplicating local churches; he was a missionary sent out by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:49), reported back to them (14:26–28), and was responsive to the leadership of local churches for his ongoing ministry (Acts 15). He continued to duplicate the sending churches as he planted new ministries. One of these church plants was located in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–10). Our passage is found at the conclusion of his first letter to the church. It is a letter filled with hope, encouragement, nurturing, and vision.

As Paul sets about closing the book, he shares his prayer for them and, in turn, begs prayer support from the band of brothers God had called to Himself in Thessalonica. These believers had seen Paul’s struggle to reach them for Christ, had seen the price he paid under persecution, and had seen the big heart he had for God, for ministry, and for souls. In verses 23 and 24 Paul models for the Thessalonian believers what prayer support looks like. Prayer partnership is poignantly illustrated here.

Partnership is more than sharing. It is holding things in common, a contract relationship where all have equal interest and obligation. Paul had invested himself in them so that they may know the Lord and grow in grace. His prayer is that God would finish His work of setting them apart for Himself. He characterizes God as the “God of peace.” God is the party responsible for converting those who had formerly been enemies to now be at peace with Him. He works that peace by providing His Son to atone, by transforming the rebel heart into a sanctified heart by faith, and by sustaining believers until they are ushered into glory. This is the sanctifying grace that Paul is talking about.

Such sanctifying grace encompasses the whole being. Though Paul refers to spirit, soul, and body, he is not describing man as technically made up of three parts as much as looking at men through three aspects, all worthy of consideration when it comes to prayer partnership. “Spirit” refers to the spiritually energized saint, the aspect that we are spiritual beings involved in a spiritual endeavor led by the Spirit of God. “Soul” refers to the aspect of man which is soulish and needy, liable to disheartening and inwardly thirsty. “Body” refers to man as fleshly, prone to weariness and wear. Even though we are born again through faith in the finished work of Christ, we are still fallen men living in a fallen world. There is a battle to be waged within and without. Paul was partnering with them in their practical welfare and service.

Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonica believers is that they may experience the all-encompassing grace of God and freely respond to God’s sovereign care so that they may be blameless when Christ appears. Blamelessness means that they are not liable to be called “upon the carpet” to give account for something. Paul has had a focus on the appearing of our Savior three other times in this book (2:19, 3:13, and 4:15). It is fitting that he keeps his eyes upon that event in his prayer for them. Of course, as verse 24 states, this product of a successful life is the work of our faithful God!

As Paul calls upon the brethren (literally, born of the same womb, brothers in Christ, those who have been in the trenches of establishing the Thessalonian church alongside him and following after him) to pray for both him and his fellow missionaries, he is enlisting the Thessalonians in the partnership of his ministry even as he is a fellow-partner in theirs. Are you a brother in prayer with other saints and missionaries? Have you enlisted others to pray for you as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians? Trust and obey.